LEO, Northwestern University, wearable startup partner to explore new dermatology devices

The collaboration hopes to develop battery-free wearables that could help inform personalized skin disease treatments.
By Dave Muoio
02:52 pm
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A new three-way partnership between device design firms and academia is looking to bring new wearables into dermatology research.

The collaboration between LEO Science & Tech Hub, LEO Pharma’s R&D unit; Northwestern University’s Center for Bio-Integrated Electronics; and Wearifi Inc., a Northwestern spinout that builds tiny, battery-free wearable devices; and will explore whether it is feasible to build a wearable, continuous detector of volatile organic compounds (VOC). To investigate whether such capabilities can be incorporated into Wearifi’s miniature devices, the project will begin with a proof-of-concept study conducted in joint with Northwestern’s engineers and dermatologists, according to a statement.

“Effectively bringing Wearifi products into the dermatology space will be a challenging endeavor, but one that will push boundaries and help us better understand our limits with regards to the relationship between technology and skin health,” Troels Marstrand, chief data scientist at LEO Science & Tech Hub, said in a statement. “We have an opportunity in front of us to learn informative new details about our largest organ and potentially yield pioneering results for our industry.”

What’s the impact

Dr. Steve Xu, medical director of the Northwestern University Center and an instructor in its dermatology department, said in a statement that the wearables targeted in the partnership “represent a powerful opportunity for biomarker discovery that may create new approaches to diagnose disease, predict clinical deteriorations, and track individual treatment responses.”

What’s the trend

LEO’s R&D outfit has previously partnered with MIT, Epicore Biosystems, Massachusetts General Hospital and others for projects concerning minimally invasive biomarker technologies and dermatology.

Wearifi and Northwestern’s Center have also seen collaborations with companies looking to incorporate wearables, such as L’Oreal and Gatorade.

On the record

“Wearifi’s miniature wireless devices allow for imperceptible and unobtrusive placement practically anywhere on the body and are currently used to monitor heart rate, respiration rate and UV exposure,” Anthony Banks, chief technology officer for Wearifi, said in a statement. “Partnering with a leading biopharmaceutical company like LEO to leverage this mm-scale sensor technology could potentially open new avenues to advance skin health.”